By Andrew Mawson, Founder and MD, Advanced Workplace Associates
It’s no secret that the global economy’s productivity is stunted, and often the political climate and destabilised economy are held accountable. That said, knowledge businesses are in a unique position to heighten their own productivity by effectively leveraging the untapped potential of their facilities and real estate functions in a more innovative way. When you are in the knowledge business you are basically buying brains filled with knowledge and energy. Those in charge of the physical workplace can hold the key to creating spaces and behaviours that kick-start the productivity of any organisation, ultimately leading to an increased output. The value of future organisations lies in how well they cultivate the knowledge, skills and energy of their people and focus it on things that create commercial value.
The research group within change management consultancy, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), undertook an extensive study of global academic research to reveal the factors that enhance individual and collective productivity and performance. We discovered six factors that can unlock an organisation’s productivity potential, they are: social cohesion; trust; vision and goal clarity; perceived supervisory support; external communication and; information sharing. To make these factors ‘sing’ within organisations means working on supporting ‘workplace infrastructure’ (spaces, technology and services) personal life habits and community behaviours. The research concluded that real estate and facilities leaders could play a key role in being a catalyst to synchronise the coming of these together.
Social cohesion and trust are two main contributing factors for knowledge worker productivity. Members of cohesive communities (teams of teams), it turns out, participate more readily and openly in sharing their knowledge and ideas. Fostering an environment that supports this means people are more likely to come up with new ideas through constructive challenge and make things happen without turf wars. A good place to start is by ensuring the senior leadership team’s dynamic is worth modelling across the organisation. This will go a long way to nurturing employee engagement.
Clarity of goals and perceived supervisory support are equally important. Teams perform best when each member has a defined purpose toward achieving a common goal. The collective vision of teams needs to be clear and supervisors should be trained to provide the support required for their teams to achieve their goals if they need it. Employees should also have confidence in a perceived supervisory support structure, so they are comfortable to request support and receive support.
Expanding the collective mind
External communication and knowledge sharing can be highly beneficial. Within a knowledge-based organisation, expanding the collective mind is vital. Exposure to external ideas and diverse perspectives helps to prevent a homogenous culture and inspire innovation but for this to occur, there needs to be an infrastructure through which sharing is possible. FM’s role is to provide spaces that facilitate sharing and collaboration, where the mapping of knowledge and expertise can be achieved to nurture.
The goal for all employers should be to create an environment that will promote active engagement from all who work there. Offices that want to nurture free and open communication, with a workforce that has clearly defined goals, should prioritise an environment that stimulates support and trust to enable sharing and collaboration using the six factors unearthed by AWA’s research. Often, these factors are overshadowed by process, structure and conventional wisdom. But they are the best way to unlock potential.
In the face of the ongoing productivity lull, business leaders should endeavour to do whatever they can to create and manage engaging environments. By leveraging the scientific research out there that has been commissioned to help businesses of all shapes and sizes thrive, employers can use the learning to their advantage. The six factors are key in improving knowledge worker productivity.